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Time is everything.

In 1975 I spent my summer working on my uncles’ farm in the Manitoba Interlake region, putting up hay. My grandfather cut in the morning with a 7 foot sickle mower behind a John Deere M, afternoons I pulled a dump rake behind the M on hay cut earlier, then my uncle baled with a Deere 14T. The high tech addition was an Allied 6 bale stacker powered by an 8 HP Briggs and Stratton. For a few days I walked alongside the 14T tugging on the left string on each bale to make sure the knot was good.  When the baler became totally unmanageable we made stacks with a push off sweep on an AR John Deere. My grandfather ran the AR, and I can still picture him stacking hay, “poetry in motion” springs to mind. A few new parts in the knotter eventually solved the baler problem. We spent a large part of the summer putting up feed for 60 cows.  

Between 1975 and today there have been revolutionary changes in how we feed livestock, all with the goal of being able to feed more animals with less time invested. There is always an investment required in these technologies, but the result was an increase in productivity. On my uncles farm it started with a Vermeer 605 C, a side delivery rake, then a Hesston mower.

Today, most large volume livestock producers have gone to a silage based winter feed program, along with extended grazing of forages and residues. Hiring a crew to do the silage is a big time saver.  Silage is mixed with straw or some other roughage source to match the requirements of the animal being fed.

How many minutes of labour are required to collect, move, store and feed the roughage component of your livestock’s feed requirement? I will let you calculate what you are presently doing.

Baling:   __________________

Bale picking: ________________

Hauling time ___________

Unloading and stacking    ____________

Moving and processing    _____________ Don’t forget the net wrap!

Once you have a rough estimate, calculate on a minutes per ton basis.

Greg Seib, who farms southwest of Young, Saskatchewan, added a Boomerang 30 to his operation this past year. I shot some video of the chaff collection process this past December. They loaded the chaff in the field with a New Holland TV140 into two tandem trucks with silage extensions and a rear dump end gate. The driver loaded the truck, they were each able to average about two trips per hour. A 19 foot box was sufficient for hauling one two ton chaff heap.

Using the Boomerang, they were able to put chaff in the yard, alongside their silage heap, using around 12 minutes of labour per ton of chaff. The time breakdown is as follows.  

Minutes of labour to collect and stack 1 ton of chaff in the field:  Zero

Minutes of labour to load 1 ton of chaff in a dump box: 3.5

Travel time, field to yard, 1-8 miles distance, average 14 minutes per trip, 7 minutes per ton.

Unload the truck, 2 minutes, 1 minute per ton.

Push up dumped chaff with loader. Twenty minutes every 20 loads, .5 minutes per ton.

Chaff is in place and ready to go in the mixer. No grinding or net wrap to deal with.

Total 12 minutes of labour per ton of chaff.

With a 40 foot trailer in place of the 20 foot truck, you could haul two heaps per load and be able to get below 10 minutes per ton. 

You can do all of this with 3 pieces of equipment, a Boomerang behind your combine, a loader, and dump box or trailer. Collection can be left until after the busy harvest season, late fall is ideal as the chaff will have settled in the heap making collecting easier. It would also be a desirable job for a silage operator after the chopping season is done.

There is more. Place the chaff heap alongside your silage, and it is ready for the mixer. No grinding time, either with a bale processor or a vertical mixer. No need to phone the tub grinder guy. No bales to move.

You can read more about Greg’s operation in the chaff story section of the website.

5 steps to get extra cattle feed from your grain farm

1. Capture

2. Collect

3. Store

4. Mix

5. Feed

Cliff Arnal from Ravenscrag, SK is a grain farmer and cattle producer who has been using chaff as a feedstock continually since the 1970s. He currently calves around 400 cows, relying upon chaff as his major feed source.

Utilization

A number of factors will affect the efficiency with which livestock will consume the available feed.

The first factor is collection efficiency. If you cannot capture the feed, your livestock cannot eat it. The previous generation of blower fed chaff carts were prone to loss during harvest, caused by turning and wind on the chaff stream. Some of the material is quite fine, especially small seeds which have greater value. The conveyor of the Boomerang successfully addresses this problem. Testing in Australia has shown that over 98% of the material ends up in the chaff heap.

The method of storage and feeding has the next impact. The simplest method of feeding chaff is to graze heaps in the field where they were grown. This is not always an option, requiring fencing, water, etc. Where it is an option, the size of the heaps affects loss and management requirements. A multitude of small heaps requires extensive control fencing, and small heaps are more vulnerable to being buried by snow. The size of the Boomerang gives you the ability to group heaps, either in rows, or in a central location. Many producers would benefit by placing the heaps in parts of the field that would most benefit from additional manure. The cart also has the ability to unload in a longer lower shaped heap as well. This makes it very easy to add supplemental feed on top of the chaff.

If you feed at a central yard, chaff can be transported using a loader with a grapple, and a dump wagon, or by baling with a large square or net wrap equipped round baler. Chaff feeds well from a large bunk using an electric wire to control access. It also mixes well in a feed mixer, as there is very little long material. Mixing with silage, grain, supplements etc. ensures that chaff will be consumed.

Baling chaff, or more accurately ‘straff’ is a recent development. It is one of the capabilities we are focusing on developing with the Boomerang. A small amount of straw is required for baling. Typically the straw chopper on the combine is left in operation, some of the straw will land on the conveyor, typically 10-15% of the total. The remainder of the straw is returned to the field.

The characteristics of chaff have changed along with combine development. Combines, even some conventional ones, are more aggressive in how they handle straw. A large amount of short straw is now traveling over the sieves and becoming a component of the chaff stream. This will affect both the quantity, and the feed value of chaff. More research needs to be done to determine the overall effect. Although the chaff samples that I submitted for testing this year all contained a significant straw component, feed values remained in the typical range.

I do not have data to support it, but I believe that the straw component improves the overall feed palatability and consumption, by making a looser, easier to eat feed. Fine chaff from the previous blower carts tended to pack into a denser mass.

As an aside, the Australian grain farmers who collect chaff for weed control prefer the conveyor cart chaff, as the added straw and looser heap makes burning much easier.

Chaff, the invisible crop

The first factor is to determine the amount of chaff being produced on your farm. A significant amount of research was done in the 1980-2000 time period, which developed chaff yield parameters. Chaff yield is tied to grain yield, with straw length, and therefore leaf material, of lesser importance. Yield for these common crops is as followed:

  • Wheat:  20 pounds (pounds of chaff per bushel of wheat)
  • Canola: 15 pounds
  • Barley: Hulled 7 pounds, hulless  20 pounds
  • Oats: 7 pounds
  • Peas: 20 pounds

This research was done prior to soybeans becoming a common crop in western Canada.

Nutritional Value

Wheat  4.6% protein,  43.6% TDN Chaff has a higher nutritional value than straw, but less than grain. It varies significantly so feed testing is required when developing a feeding program. There is almost always a requirement to provide some supplemental nutrition.

Canola  5.9% protein,  38.5% TDN

Barley  6.5% protein, 53% TDN

Oats  7.2% protein, 53% TDN

Peas 9.2% protein, 42% TDN

About Boomerang Chaff Cart

Welcome to the Boomerang Chaff cart. This machine is a Canadian built variant of the Australian Tecfarm CT series machines, with modifications developed to maximize its suitability and versatility when used for feed collection. Hopefully this information can assist in evaluating the feasibility in developing a secure source of low cost feed.

I began this project in 2018. Tecfarm is the market leader in Australia, with around 180 machines sold so far. Tom Lewis, President of Tecfarm, felt there was potential in North America, but did not know where to start. When I approached him with my ideas, it came together quite quickly. Manufacturing in Australia and shipping to Canada was totally uneconomic. Tecfarm provides design and engineering support to me, along with supplying their proven control system. Fabworks of Decker, MB, previous manufacturer of the Decker Brand coal furnaces, is our manufacturing partner. I am responsible for marketing and product support. I began my career in farm equipment sales in 1981. In 1995 I launched my own feed equipment sales and service enterprise as a sideline to working for other equipment dealers. Becoming a manufacturer has been an exciting learning process. My wife and I live in Wawanesa, MB, our service facility and office is right on main street, just down the block from the Wawanesa Insurance company home office.